Blog post by Gwen
Photo Courtesy of Penhaligon's - Love the jaunty little blue bow!
When I was growing up, the men in the English branch of my family tree had a predilection for Penhaligon’s fragrances. This makes perfect sense since Penhaligon’s is a luxury British perfume house that started out as a barber shop on Jermyn Street in London in 1870. Today, Penhaligon’s offers a wide range of fragrances for men as women as well as scented candles, soaps, bath and body products, lip balms…you get the idea.
I suspect my English family’s dedication to the Penhaligon’s brand was started and fostered by one or two aunts who gifted their husbands and sons with Penhaligon’s products over the years. I say this because every Christmas and birthday I receive a gift from them, often from Penhaligon’s: a wallet, a travel pouch, a Christmas decoration…you get the idea.
Needless to write, Penhaligon’s holds a special place in my heart, from the comforting smell of my uncles when I received a warm hug from them, to the ‘little luxuries’ I was given at Christmas. And while their fragrances are well-crafted, with luxury ingredients and a commitment to quality, I really wasn’t all that taken with them until they introduced Elixir by one of my favourite noses, Olivia Giacobetti, in 2008. Elixir converted me into a Penhaligon’s devotee. From then on, the brand was no longer just a sentimental favourite, for me, it became a fragrance house I find relevant, modern and interesting – you only have to go through my blogs to see proof of that.
All of this brings me to Esprit du Roi. I was introduced to this little jewel of a men’s fragrance by an English uncle at a family reunion a couple of years ago. As always, I greeted him with a hug and in that moment, I smelled something fresh and floral and woody. I smelled something gorgeous. So, I asked him what he was wearing: “It’s Esprit du Roi," he said. It means 'King’s spirit' in English”. He was so cute and so pleased that he knew the English translation of Esprit du Roi. Let me tell you, after I caught a whiff of it on him, I lingered a little longer as he told me that same story about meeting the Queen he’d told me a hundred times or more before, only this time I was utterly fascinated by it. It was a though I was hearing it for the first time.
First introduced by Penhaligon’s in 1983, Esprit du Roi was reformulated and updated by Bertrand Duchaufour in 2011 and released as part of the Anthology Collection.
The opening is fresh and citrusy from bergamot, mandarin, cedrat. The citrus accord isn’t bracing or mouth-puckering, but refined and elegant. It gives Esprit du Roi a certain British composure. The citrus is followed by a trio of herbs: cool, refreshing mint, astringent, herbaceous tomato leaf and davana – that sweet, jammy-fruit chameleon note that smells differently on different people. It gives the frgcen a kind of ‘custom-made’ feel. The greens complement the citrus fruits perfectly, and when cardamom appears and adds a hint of spicy warmth, I get a strong scent memory: I am a child again, helping my mother gather herbs from the garden on a warm summer’s day. As the fragrance develops, aldehydes bloom adding a gentle soapiness that’s a nod to Penhaligon’s barbershop beginnings, along with a floral aspect that ushers in a heart of exotic, rich, lush ylang ylang, jasmine and honeysuckle. These are big flowers that could easily highjack the whole fragrance, but harnessed by geranium leaf and clove, they become quietly elegant and, well, gentlemanly. The base is earthy and woody from patchouli, vetiver, cedar and sandalwood, with raspberry adding a hint of tartness that brightens the earthiness.
The drydown refined and sophisticated yet surprisingly refreshing and light. Esprit du Roi isn’t groundbreaking, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mean to be. But it’s not conventional either. What it is, is a beautifully crafted, discreetly elegant men’s summer scent and that’s what makes it exceptional.
Check out Esprit du Roi in our Shop.